It is my pleasure to host fellow SFR author Laurel Richards. Please welcome her, and check out her new release, THE COLONY.
I am so excited about my new sci-fi romance novel The Colony. This is the most action-packed SFR work I’ve ever done, and I worked hard to include some unique elements. As a child, I was fascinated by paleontology—mostly the study of dinosaurs—and I still find the fossils of Earth’s past inhabitants interesting as an adult. That got me thinking. Wouldn’t other planets have fossils too? And what kind of historical creatures could we find if we could explore that far?
This is a major theme in The Colony, in which the heroine works as the Chief of Paleontology on the planet of Jangala. Dr. Elisa Everett is smart, well educated, and passionate about her work. Elisa is not your typical heroine. She’s a scientist, not a warrior, but she’s tough and uses her smarts to survive. Elisa also suffers from severe asthma—an ailment I shared when I was younger. It’s extraordinarily hard to do anything when you can’t breathe. Elisa doesn’t let this stop her, however, though it does give her another obstacle to overcome.
The hero, Alexander Valerian, is a nice foil for the heroine. Alex starts life as a rancher and eventually joins the army in order to get his college degree. He sees active military service and then eventually leaves the army to join colonial security. Alex is a man of action. While he’s far from stupid, his smarts lean more toward instinct and common sense, and he’s a protector through and through. When something deadly happens at the Jangala colony, will he be able to find Elisa and get her out safely?
by Laurel Richards
Not everyone will make it out alive.
Responding to a distress call, Officer Alexander Valerian and the rest of his security team arrive at the human colony on the planet of Jangala to find blood and gore all over the walls. All the colonists are dead or missing except for Dr. Elisa Everett, a pretty paleontologist he finds injured and nearly suffocated in a ventilation shaft. Now Alex has to figure out how sixty-nine colonists were wiped out in a single night, but Elisa’s account of killer monsters just raises more questions. Has the colony really been attacked by bloodthirsty beasts, or did everyone succumb to a powerful hallucinogen that made them turn on one another? He had better find out fast, because Elisa’s life is in his hands.
Human colony, planet Jangala…
“What the hell is going on?”
Dr. Elisa Everett huffed out the demand as she ran into the colony’s security room. Her hand wasn’t quite steady as she took a hit from her asthma inhaler and got her first good breath since sprinting here from her lab in the southwest wing. The blaring overhead alarm nearly drowned her out.
From her seat in front of the security monitor, her sister shot her a concerned look while she punched buttons that were blinking a violent shade of red.
“All hell is breaking loose,” Bria shouted.
Her remark was punctuated by the frantic squawking of the nearby intercom.
Elisa strode closer to get a look at the screen and was overwhelmed by the kaleidoscope of images. Section N1’s camera revealed two male colonists pounding at each other with their fists. They were both swaying on their feet, but they didn’t let up. In another frame, a woman in section NW2 was gesticulating wildly and evidently talking to herself. The Jameson cousins in R3 stood atop the cafeteria table and waved at the lens for help. Five other displays were down and filled with static.
Elisa muttered a prayer. “Where’s your commander? What happened to your backup?”
Her sister was a Beta security officer here at the Jangala colony. She wasn’t supposed to handle something like this by herself.
“I don’t know!” Bria cried above the alarm. “Someone triggered the fire alert in the northeast wing. Commander Walsh took Donaldson with him to check it out. I didn’t see flames, but Guy Robbins was spraying extinguisher mist all over the damn place. I saw someone tackle him through the haze. By the time the fog cleared, Guy was lying there with his head bashed in. Nobody is answering their radio, Commander Walsh ran for the north door ten seconds before we lost picture for that whole wing, and then my emergency panel lit up. We’ve got an outbreak of assaults, reports of killer insects, and— Oh, my God!”
Elisa followed her sister’s gaze and gripped the edge of the table. Framed at the top of the screen was Liddy Harper, a petite eighteen-year-old who usually wore a star-bright smile. The girl was currently throwing herself against the walls of one of the workrooms in the northwest wing. A gash on her forehead bled profusely, and blood smeared the room where she’d pinged around like a fly in a bottle.
Elisa’s mouth went dry, which only made the medicinal aftertaste from her inhaler more noticeable. “She’s hurting herself. We’ve got to stop her.”
“She’s on the other side of the compound,” Bria pointed out, but she was already heading for the door. “We need stunners. Weapons locker, sublevel.”
Elisa didn’t argue. She just concentrated on her breathing as she followed her sister’s quick, athletic strides.
The air grew stale as they hit the cold metal staircase that descended to the basement. They’d almost reached the last step when the lights cut out. Elisa rocked back on her heels and clutched the handrail as they were plunged into total darkness. Her sister cursed in front of her, and the alarms fell silent.
Bria’s voice rose from the void. “Elisa, you’re only one or two steps behind me. Reach forward and find the back of my jacket.”
“Okay.” Elisa ignored the tremor in her hand as she reached blindly ahead.
When she made contact with nothing but air, she slid her shoe forward to find the step’s edge with her toe. Both she and Bria jumped when her fingertips hit her sister’s hair, but then she managed to pinch a crease in the back of Bria’s security jacket.
Her sister took control. “Good. Step down the rest of the way with me, and we’ll walk to the weapons locker together. It’s going to be down the hall to the right, second door on the left.”
As one, they started moving. Elisa felt a moment of disorientation when they first hit the landing, but she got her bearings once she was sure there were no more steps. After navigating the narrow hallway, they found the door they wanted.
“How you doing? Are you taking nice, easy breaths?” Bria knew stress always made the asthma attacks worse.
“Maintaining,” Elisa replied, and she hoped she could keep it that way.
Her palm grew sweaty against Bria’s jacket, but she expelled a breath of relief when the code panel beside the doorframe lit up. She could just make out her sibling’s outline in the eerie green glow of the buttons.
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